A couple of months ago, I wrote that “PTC is such an interesting company. A bunch of really smart people who … get too far ahead of their customers (remember “CAD is dead”?), alienate those who sign the checks while retaining intense loyalty among the user base, or move too fast to make too many operational changes all at once.” That was about their revenue miss in Q1. Now, after spending time with the PTC faithful at Planet PTC Live, I’m convinced it’s even more interesting than I realized.

A quick recap for those who haven’t been following as closely as I have. PTC recently reorganized itself along product lines, to give more focus to each of its initiatives. The thinking is that, under the old scheme, a central R&D organization was pulled into too many directions to build out the Windchill and Arbortext offerings while continuing to enhance Pro/Engineer — perhaps sacrificing the competitive standing of Pro/E. Under the new scheme, each of PTC’s 5 product areas has its own, dedicated, resources which should be able focus more intently on just one set of products that meet a specific set of customer needs. These 5 areas include MCAD, PLM, Application Lifecycle Market (ALM, for software systems lifecycle management and systems engineering), Supply Chain Management (SCM, for supply chain risk and compliance, component/material/supplier management, sourcing & cost management and manufacturing planning — but not supplier contracting and so on), and Service Lifecycle Management (SLM, for requirements management, service information, service parts, warranty management, call center and field service). So: MCAD, PLM, ALM, SCM and SLM.

How, you may rightly ask, does all of this fit together? Why would PTC want to be in all of these businesses, many of which require selling outside its traditional engineering/design group base? Are there customers for these new, distinct segments? And, finally, what does PTC have to for these new acronyms?

PlanetPTC Live was the first shot at answering these questions. Using Whirlpool’s new Maxima washers and dryers as examples, PTC’s business unit managers walked us through where each offering would be applied. Most people are familiar with Creo (design and simulation) and Windchill (xBOM, project and process management), and enhancements are coming there, but a lot of the content was focused on the other 3 areas. For example, the Maxima washer/dryers are equal parts mechanical, electrical, and software, with a million lines of code (in an appliance!! — yow). Designing and managing these complex systems, and innovating with all three areas in mind, is hard yet necessary for Whirlpool to meet the needs of its customers. The company understands that its old ways did not adequately interconnect these disciplines, so Whirlpool is in the middle of an innovation redesign program to figure out how to do it better.

Whirlpool also faces the reality that these appliances need to be serviced and includes people from its services organization in product design teams. PTC’s SLM offering enables companies to manage service BOMs (or SBOMs) to manage service parts, but also much more, depending upon how an OEM wants to manage its services operations. And, as you probably know, PTC’s Integrity forms the cornerstone of its ALM solution, connecting requirements, codes and test to ensure that the software driving the control and display systems on the appliances. You can learn much more by catching a replay of the technology keynote here: http://www.ptc.com/events/planetptc-keynotes-2012/ptc-technology-roadmap-keynote-day-1.htm

It’s worth watching, if you’re interested in how PTC connects the dots for its manufacturing customers, and includes many vignettes from Whirlpool about its vision for design, manufacturing and service.

I was fortunate enough to have meetings, both planned and chance, with many of the leaders of the 5 businesses. To say that they are focused is a total understatement — passionate advocates all, who realize that customers may not know how to embrace some of the solutions PTC is working on, but have long-term plans to for world domination. PTC’s current trend seems to be to roll out solutions that fix specific problems, such as ensuring that field service teams have the most up-to-date product information. Once that is showing positive results, perhaps with improved customer satisfaction or fewer repeat calls, they can help the customer move on to warranty management or another area within SLM. Rather than going with the whole thing, all at once, and demanding huge investment and commitment, this incremental approach will let PTC learn from its customers and prove incremental benefit.

Since many of you are Pro/E or Wildfire users, this link will get you to PTC’s Creo roadmap presentation: http://www.ptc.com/events/planetptc-keynotes-2012/ptc-technology-roadmap-keynote-day-1.htm

I found it very interesting that PTC, all along, downplayed release 1.0 (out a year ago) and expected the vast majority of users to start evaluating Creo 2.0. Creo 1.0 was intended to prove that there really was a product there and that it was more than just slide-ware. Since most people don’t bother with the 1.0 release of anything, says Michael Campbell, Division VP, MCAD, PTC concentrated its resources on improving quality and adding significantly more modeling functionality to the 2.0 release. Cool in 2.0: Creo Layout and Freestyle are intended as early-stage, conceptual tools that feed model info into the parametric model.

For you Windchill folks, here’s that product keynote: http://pi27t.rmxpres.com/webcast/data/planetptc06042012bo1/main.htm. One thing to mention to everyone: Brian Shepherd, Executive Vice President, PLM & SCM Segments, spoke of a preconfigured Windchill for small deployments that will come out in early 2013. We didn’t get specifics, but it sounds as though it is limited only to the extent that the out-of-the-box configuration may not interface to everything — but check with PTC to learn the details.

So much more to say — look for more blog posts about PlanetPTC Live — but one thing that was completely absent was anything to do with the cloud. That’s a buzzword PTC appears happy to leave to others. Mr. Heppelmann said that PTC tried a version of Windchill for the cloud three years ago; its reception was lukewarm. “When our customers are ready for the cloud, we’ll be waiting.”

Note: PTC graciously covered expenses and registration for the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post.

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